A senior Maharashtra Minister has expressed the hope that the ongoing agitation by the Marathas for reservation will be withdrawn in the next few days as the BJP government is working towards resolving the issue and the community has reposed trust in it.
The comments by Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar came in the wake of Maratha outfits announcing a fresh round of agitation from August 9.
He said the BJP’s resounding victory in the elections to the Sangli and Jalgaon municipal corporations will give the party an upper-hand in dealing with the quota issue.
Speaking to select mediapersons here over the weekend, Mungantiwar said the two cities have a large population of Marathas and the BJP’s victory shows the community has faith in the party-led government in the state.
The BJP leader said the Devendra Fadnavis government is very clear in its intention to provide reservation to the Marathas and accused “some people” of “instigating” the community which is agitating over the quota demand.
The saffron outfit swept the polls for the two civic bodies on Friday. The BJP defeated the Congress-NCP combine in Sangli, while it trounced the Shiv Sena, its ally at the state and national level, in Jalgaon, North Maharashtra.
Mungantiwar said the long-pending quota issue could have been resolved when the Congress-NCP alliance was in power for 15 years (1999-2014).
“The recent victories in the civic polls will give an upper-hand to the BJP on the issue of Maratha reservation, because in Sangli (where the BJP posted victory for the first time), the majority of the local population are Marathas. This shows their trust in us,” he said.
“We expect the discussions (between the government and Maratha community representatives) to get over soon and hope the agitation will be called off before August 9.
Maratha groups have planned a fresh round of agitation in support of their demand for reservation in government jobs and education.
Their stir took a violent turn last month and about half a dozen community members have committed suicide in support of the quota demand.
Attacking the Congress and the NCP, Mungantiwar said two main opposition parties tried to use the agitation against the BJP government for their own political end.
“They knew that despite being in power for 15 years, they had nothing to show to voters in the 2019 polls. So they were left with just two options – break the BJP-Sena alliance and divide votes or instigate such protests,” he said.
Mungantiwar claimed that during the all-party meeting called last week to arrive at a consensus on the issue of Maratha reservation, NCP leaders Chhagan Bhujbal and Ajit Pawar took a divergent stand.
“Ajit Pawar was in favour of calling a special session of the legislature to discuss and resolve the issue. On the other hand, he (Bhujbal) was of the opinion that if a special session is called now, all other communities will also demand reservation,” the minister said.
Bhujbal’s “open revolt” resulted in Ajit Pawar taking a backseat over the issue, the BJP leader said.
Responding to a query, Mungantiwar said the government has sought a total of Rs 75,000 crore from the Centre for the development of Mumbai, Vidarbha and Marathwada regions.
He said Mumbai contributes most to the all-India GDP and the metropolis requires Rs 10,000 crore every year for the next five years for the development of its infrastructure.
In drought-prone Vidarbha and Marathwada, a sum of Rs 5,000 crore is needed every year for the next five years for providing employment, education and health facilities to the people in these under-developed regions, he added.